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15 June 2011

The Obligatory Second Day in New York

Day 25: Tuesday, 14 June 2011

New York City. I have a hard time making sense of the place. What you hear about the city is, to a large extent, true: it's a monstrosity of a city, and it has way too many people crammed into too small a place. The only way that traffic (and people) can even get by is if others get out of the way. So you have to be constantly aware of everything around you. And everyone's rushing to get from here to there. You could easily just stand on any sidewalk and watch people all day and find no lack of entertainment. Everyone here is driven and has a purpose. No one (except the tourists, myself included) seems to be in New York just to enjoy the city itself. Yet I was most struck by how helpful and approachable people were. No one seemed to be annoyed that I was asking them for help; everyone seemed to have the attitude that camaraderie, that we're all in this insane city together, so we should help each other out if we can.

Anyway, our second day in New York city got off to a late start. After our exhausting itinerary on Monday, and staying up late with beers in the jacuzzi, Ueli and I slept in until about 11:30am. Which was weird because on this whole trip, I'd always wake up at 8 or 9 regardless of how late I was up.  So Ueli and I quickly got ready and scarfed down some breakfast. We had planned to meet up with Christian for lunch, but it didn't look like we'd be able to make it. But we were lucky to be dropped off at (what we thought was) the bus stop. Turns out it was wrong, and we waited for about 20 minutes with no bus. And then, I saw the bus coming the other direction, so I got the driver's attention and started waving furiously. He saw me and pointed down the street to where we should have been waiting. He then looped around the mall, and 5 minutes later he picked us up, somewhat between stops. As we boarded, he was very friendly, giving us round trip tickets and giving us change.

a day in the new york life, part 2

Day 23: Monday, 13 June 2011 [Part 2]

The buildings got taller as we entered Midtown. The more intimate feel of the Village was replaced by more grit. I had to be more alert, because people were rushing around in all directions doing all kinds of things. It felt, frankly, overwhelming. Just walking around can be stressful. If I lived here, I would totally get a heart attack or pick up smoking (either way, living in Manhattan is not good for your health!). We made it to Times Square, where the tourist hawks came swooping down on us, offering us tickets to all the shows. I played into one of their games, keeping the guy engaged in conversation for like 10 minutes. He just keep talking non stop! It was amazing. He asked me how long he thought he could keep me standing there, and I was wondering just the same. He was going to give us $40 comedy central tickets for $7.50, but I had already decided not to spend any more money that day, so I wouldn't budge for anything that wasn't free.

We sat in Times Square for a couple minutes; a woman was filming some sort of tacky promo for an online dating agency, and some dorky teenage boys were discussing why they can't get any girls and which train they should take. Oh, New York. Ueli and I then walked to Rockefeller Center; I tried to call the NJ Transit hotline to figure where exactly we'd get our bus, but no luck. We passed though Rockefeller, I considered waking up early to be on the Today Show the next morning, and we walked up 5th Avenue, passing St. Patrick's Cathedral. Ueli wanted a frappuccino, so I spontaneously asked the first person to walk by with a Starbucks cup where she got it from. "Trump Towah", she barked back in a noticeably Bostonian accent. I grunted back a thanks and we walked quickly onward. (Man it's so easy to interact with people in New York!)

A Late Start to an Overwhelming Day in the City

Day 23: Monday, 13 June 2011 [Part 1]
We had to return the rental car at 9am at Newark Airport. The drive from where were staying to the airport included several toll roads, which I of course avoided, and thus it took about an hour to get there. We drove through several different New Jersey suburbs, and each seemed nicer than I had expected. The city of Newark was the most urban of these cities, with all the amenities (and presumably the problems) of a large city. It ended up being around 10:30 when we arrived at the car rental drop-off at the airport (Dollar Rent-A-Car was the last of the rental companies, and you have to drive a complete loop around the airport just to get there!). I pulled up and the greeter checked out the car. No problems, until I got my receipt - $320. This was more than the $280 I was charged in Miami. Apparently they charged me for an extra day because I was 1.5 hours late. This sucked. In my experience there has always been a 2-hour buffer for car rentals. Needless to say I was feeling negative about it.

Ueli and I took the peoplemover shuttle to the airport terminals, where we walked through to the local bus stop. There was a pretty nice woman also unsure of where the bus stopped, but it soon came within 1 minute and there was no problem. We took a New Jersey Transit bus to Newark's Penn Station, and then we transferred to the PATH train. There was an Asian couple in front of us at the ticket machine, and they took the longest time to buy their tickets! The other ticket machines kept moving, and we were held up maybe 15 minutes just because they didn't know how to swipe a credit card! They finished, Ueli and I got our tickets very quickly, and we hopped on the train about 10 seconds before it left. Good timing prevailed!

Philly Pride, Lehigh, and White Castle

Day 23: Sunday, 12 June 2011
This day we drove from Philadelphia to New Jersey. It's not a long drive, if you look at the map, but our journey today took all day, thanks largely to an unexpected traffic jam in Philadelphia. We left around 11am, after another wonderful breakfast prepared by Miss Laura :) After saying our byes, Ueli and I drove into the city so that he could see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

As I drove into Center City, Market Street east of City Hall was blocked by a police car. Hmm, so I'd just head to the next street over and take that across. Good in theory, but that street turned out to be only one lane and was so jammed with cars that it took 20+ minutes just to move a couple blocks. Insanity, what was this? I moved over to another street, hoping to avoid whatever was going on, but then, BAM!, more traffic! The drivers were honking everywhere and people were yelling out of their car windows to get out of the way. (Man, Philly drivers are really rude!)

Boring Amish Country and a Chocolate Sugar Rush in Philly

Day 22: Saturday, 11 June 2011
We slept in a bit, and Laura prepared a large breakfast for us - eggs and chicken sausage with Aepfelskiver filled with nutella. It was already around noon when Ueli and I left, and we decided, largely heeding Alisa's advice, to check out Amish country. The drive was scenic. We first passed briefly by Villanova University and then took the 476 to the 76 to the 202, and I somehow missed the exit (the exits seems to appear so suddenly here) and ended up in West Chester. No worries, I took a quick rural road back to the 30, which lead us straight into Lancaster County, the heart of Amish country. There were plenty of small rural stores and houses, and we finally got to see an Amish buggy crossing the street in front of us! Few buildings had street numbers, though, so I easily drove past the Amish House and Farm, our intended destination. I drove us into the town of Lancaster when I realized that we had gone too far. So I turned around and we looked intently for the place - it was right next to a Target, where we stopped for a bathroom and a frappuccino and saw several Amish people shopping right there!

From DC to Philly (Through Crabby Maryland and Orwellian Delaware)

Day 21: Friday, 10 June 2011

"In Maryland we don't say cheese, we say crabs"

Aaron nudged me awake around 7am to say goodbye. It was around 10 that Ueli and I were up and ready to go. We left Annandale and drove into DC, heading straight for the monuments. I was lucky enough to find a parking lot just south of the Washington Monument. So Ueli and I walked all the way through the WWII Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial. There were throngs of tourists walking around the National Mall, and it was hot - on its way close to 100 degrees yet again. The reflecting pool was drained and turned into one big construction area. We also visited the Vietnam Memorial and walked back to the car; I took my shirt off so it wouldn't be covered in sweat (yuck).

It was the early afternoon as we drove out of DC into Maryland through moderately heavy traffic. There was a rest area/Maryland welcome center; I asked the woman for any "Welcome to Maryland" sign that we could photograph, and she immediately snapped back at me, angrily lecturing me that we were 35 miles from the border and why would there be a sign there. She was definitely more confrontational and curt than the people I had encountered in the South; yet she was able to be a little helpful and gave us directions to avoid paying tolls.